I often reflect that when eating out with a special diet, it’s the ‘mid range’ you’ve got to watch out for.
Chains might be uninspiring, but things are so proceduralised that you know where you stand.
Small independents might not do things by the letter of the law, but there’s usually passion and a willingness to please from chef-owners who know their business and kitchens inside-out.
And far from the snobbery I expected, the top end & Michelin stars of the world usually cater impeccably for us, with every last staff member versed in the ingredients of every dish.
But the overgrown independent-cum-chains, franchises and gastro pubs of this world are usually risky territory. With owners at arms-reach, a growing staff and clientele, how do they maintain control of the experience and safe food we need?
When Honest Burgers invited me and some of the other gluten free twitter rabble to try their new ‘gluten-friendly special’, I was thrilled and curious. Honest Burgers has recently gone from a tiny south London place of coeliac pilgrimage (literally- I once walked there from Angel) to a London stalwart, with 7 locations, rave reviews and a growing set of devotees, only too happy to queue before they open for a spot at a shared table. Has their gluten-free stuff of legend (burger, in a bun, with fries!) come with them?
Well it turns out, yes! And in fantastic style. We were there to celebrate the launch of the ‘Honesto’ burger. A collaboration with gluten free lager, Estrella Daura. Owner, Tom, took us through the story of their gluten free offering: from a time when customers would come to their burger bar in Brixton Village with buns from nearby WAG Free Bakery, to the point now when gluten-free is the first way they do things by default – even down to the giant crispy onion rings and picante chicken wing starters. Amazing! This has culminated in the new Catalan-themed special, complete with gluten-free romesco sauce, lomo and Tetilla cheese.
The food is refreshingly familiar and hearty – still the perfect halfway between a gourmet and proper dirty burger, fries are still included, and it’s still a ‘get your hands in’ no fork affair (although a little challenging with romesco dripping down your wrist). There have course been some changes as Honest have grown – most notably the ‘how would you like your burger cooked’ before you are served – a pregnant me was a little embarrassed to ask for a ‘well done’ one a few months ago. There is a lot less ‘spit and sawdust’ to the new venue in the heart of gentrified King’s Cross, but when it comes with proper toilets – who cares?!
My only quibble was with the description of the burger as ‘gluten friendly’ rather than ‘gluten free’. Tom told me this was down to the shared kitchen (they do gluteny buns), but given the lengths they go to to ensure gluten free diners have a great time, they could easily go for the GF or NGCI certification. I think you’re in very safe hands.
The ‘gluten-friendly’ special runs from 17th September until 14th October. You can always get a normal honest burger in a gluten free bun outside of these dates.
I was fed gluten free beer and the most delicious burger and beers for free. Did I mention the beers? Of course this has biased my opinion! ;) To see what I thought of Honest before they got all big – click here.